Five on Friday: 5 Business Lessons Best Learned in the Kitchen


It’s all about the prep.

Trying to cook without prepping is like taking a road trip without first filling up your gas tank, stocking up on snacks, or planning your route—it’s doable, but it’s completely inefficient and is likely to cause a lot of undue headaches and setbacks. If you don’t take out all of your ingredients, do all of your slicing and chopping at once, etc, there’s a good that what should have taken 15 minutes will actually take 45.

The correlation to business here is that before you launch a new service or undertake a new project, it’s imperative that you know what you’re getting into and be aware of the obstacles that are likely going to arise along the way. Start by doing research and creating a preliminary plan of action, then take the time to identify potential setbacks and figure out how to overcome them. Revise your plan accordingly and repeat the process until you have the confidence and understanding to move beyond the testing stage and offer your services to the public.

Keep your knives sharp.

Dull knives are the cause of most knife accidents in the kitchen. Because they’re too blunt to make an easy slice, you have to use an undue amount of pressure. And when you’re pressing that hard, there’s a good chance that something will slip and someone will bleed. Sharp knives, on the contrary, make the same cuts with less pressure, making them easier to control.

As far as business is concerned, keeping your knives sharp has multiple implications. You want to stay on the cutting edge of your specific industry (pun intended), and you yourself want to take the necessary steps to be mentally sharp on the job. Applying a concentrated effort toward accomplishing a single task will allow you to complete it more efficiently than if your attention had been divided.

Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Some of the best meals are the result of happy accidents—whether that means getting creative with whatever odds and ends you happen to have in your pantry, picking a recipe at random from your favorite cookbook, or ordering a new dish at your favorite restaurant.

If you want to grow your business, you’re going to have to take a few chances along the way. You can’t form a solution to a problem using the same thinking that created it, and complacency does not often bring about success. Remember, “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

Salt, and salt evenly.

If something about the dinner you just made tastes underwhelming or a little off, there’s a good chance that you failed to properly salt it. It’s common now to skimp on the salt to keep the sodium content low, but oftentimes a pinch here or there is all you need. The other thing to keep in mind is to sprinkle your salt as though it’s snowing in order to apply it evenly and avoiding getting too much in one area and none in another.

Salt on food is like positive reinforcement in the workplace. If no one’s achievements are ever made note of, overall morale will be low. If one person or department receives a disproportionate amount of attention, everyone else will feel worse in comparison. But just as evenly salting your food produces a dish that’s full of flavor from the first bite to the last, recognizing the successes of your employees as a whole will raise everyone’s spirits—and happy employees are more likely to take pride in producing good work.

Taste as you go.

Especially if you’re cooking for guests, you want to be sure that the food tastes good before you put it on the table. And just in case something goes wrong early in the cooking process, you’ll be able to catch it and do damage control before everything is too far gone. Aside from that, adding spices individually and tasting after each one is a good way to learn how different flavors interact with each other.

In business, test early and test often. If you’re selling a product, you want to be sure that it meets your high standards. If you’re providing a service, you want to be sure that your methods are efficient and effective. Testing early allows you to build from a solid foundation–giving you a restore point, so to speak–and testing often allows you to refine your product or service as you go and avoid having to do a major overhaul on a supposedly finished product.

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